California State Disability Insurance 101—What It Is, Who Can Use It, How to Apply


This week, we’re bringing you an FAQ-style post about California’s State Disability Insurance program. It’s part two of our Paid Leave Blog Series. If you missed part one, which breaks down Paid Family Leave, you can check that out in English or Spanish.

As always, if you have any additional questions after reading this blog post, we’re here to help! Feel free to email us at


What is State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

California State Disability Insurance (CA SDI) is a worker-funded program that provides partial wage replacement when a worker needs to take time off work due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a non-work related serious illness or injury. The State Disability Insurance program is administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD).


How do I know if I’ve been paying into the State Disability Insurance program?

Many workers don’t even realize they are paying into the SDI program. The easiest way to find out is by looking at your pay stubs. If you see “CA SDI” on your pay stub, that shows that you are paying into the California State Disability Insurance program through a state-mandated employee tax. 


How much money will I receive through State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

You can receive about 60 or 70 percent of wages you earned 5 to 18 months before your claim start date. For claims beginning on or after January 1, 2020, weekly benefits range from $50 to a maximum of $1,300. To calculate your benefit payments, click here.


How long can I receive State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

You may receive up to 52 weeks of State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits.


What qualifies as a “disability”?

According to the EDD, a disability is an illness or injury, either physical or mental, which prevents you from performing your regular and customary work. Disability also includes elective surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions.

Work-related disabilities are covered by workers’ compensation laws; however, State Disability Insurance benefits may also be paid for work-related illness or injuries under certain circumstances. Visit Workers’ Compensation for more information. 


How do I know if I’m eligible for State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

In order to be eligible for State Disability Insurance, you must:

  • Be unable to do your regular or customary work for at least eight days.
  • Be employed or actively looking for work at the time your disability begins.
  • Have lost wages because of your disability.
  • Have earned at least $300 from which State Disability Insurance (SDI) deductions were withheld during your base period. For additional information visit, Calculating Benefit Payment Amounts.
  • Be under the care and treatment of a licensed physician/practitioner or accredited religious practitioner within the first eight days of your disability. The date your claim begins can be adjusted if it does not meet this requirement. You must remain under care and treatment to continue receiving benefits.
  • Complete and submit your claim form (DE 2501) no earlier than nine days after your first day of disability begins but no later than 49 days after your disability begins or you may lose benefits.
  • Have your physician/practitioner complete the medical certification portion of your disability claim.
    • A nurse practitioner may certify to a disability within his/her scope of practice; however, he/she must perform a physical examination and collaborate with a physician or surgeon.
    • A licensed midwife, nurse-midwife, or nurse practitioner may complete the medical certification for disabilities related to normal pregnancy or childbirth.
    • If you are under the care of a religious practitioner, request a Claim for Disability Insurance Benefits-Religious Practitioner’s Certificate (DE 2502), from an SDI office. Certification by a religious practitioner is acceptable only if the practitioner has been accredited by the Employment Development Department.


Where do I apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

You can apply for State Disability Insurance at the Employment Development Department of California. To file a claim, visit


After I submit a claim to the EDD, when will I know if I’m eligible?

Once a properly completed claim application is received, the EDD usually determines eligibility within 14 days. However, due to COVID-19, this process has slowed down. Submitting a claim online is the fastest way to have your claim processed.


How will I receive my State Disability Insurance (SDI) payments?

You will be able to select your payment option when you file your claim.

  • EDD Debit Card: If eligible, benefit payments are issued on the EDD Debit Card within 24 hours of processing your certification and immediately available to you.
  • EDD Checks by Mail: If eligible, benefit payments are issued by EDD check within 24 hours of processing your certification. Allow 7 to 10 days for delivery of checks in the mail.


Can undocumented workers apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

Yes, as long as you are paying into the California State Disability Insurance fund you can apply. Citizenship and immigration status do not affect eligibility. The Employment Development Department will NOT ask for proof of citizenship. 


Will my employer find out what my illness or disability is when I apply for State Disability Insurance?

The EDD will notify your employer that you have submitted a State Disability Insurance claim; however, your medical information is confidential and will not be shared with your employer.


Will my job be protected while I’m taking time off work using State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

California State Disability Insurance does not provide job protection. Your job may be protected through other federal or state laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). For more information about the FMLA, visit the Department of Labor or call (916) 653-9900. For more information about the CFRA, visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or call 1-800-884-1684.


What if I’m wrongfully fired or told by my employer that I cannot take time off due to my disability?

Being able to enforce your rights is important. Not all employers are aware of how State Disability Insurance works and some are not supportive of employees taking time off. If you suspect you were wrongfully terminated or disciplined for taking leave, we recommend getting free legal counsel and support from one of our members, Legal Aid At Work. 


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